Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress Page: 69
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OF DEBATES IN" CONGRESS.
- Deo. 28, 1824.] Taxation of Military Lands—Niagara Sufferers.
[H. of R.
\ T XA.TTON OF MILITARY LANDS,
j; Mr. WICKLIFFE, of Ken. moved the following:
liesolved, That the Committee on the Judiciary be in-
f jstructed to inquire into the expediency of exempting,
s for a limited time, from taxation, by the Territorial Go-
t vernmcnts, the military bounty lands which have been
| patented to, and not sold by, the original claimants, or
I their heirs.
! Mr WICKLIFFE said, that his attention had recently
1 been called to the fact, that, in one territory of this
f country, four hundred tracts of land had been brought
into market and sold for taxes; and, in reflecting upon
such a state of things, lie was convinced, that the power
claimed by the territorial governments to tax the mili-
tary lands within their limits, was one great cause of the
facility with which speculators obtain possession of
rights to land which were originally intended to reward
the war-worn soldier for his toil. The original grantee,
hearing of tax upon tax, was unwilling and unable to
pay so much on his land, and was thus compelled to sell
his right to1 it. The object ef the resolution he now pro-
posed to the notice of the House, was to exempt these
lands from taxation for a limited time.
Mr. JB RENT, of Louisiana, thought that the remedy
; proposed by the gentleman from Kentucky ought to be
applied to the case referred to, but that the Committee
on the Public Lands, and not that on the Judiciary, was
the proper one to which the resolution should be sent,
and he moved such reference as an amendment.
The motion was lost.
Mr. COOK, of Illinois, thought the resolution was im-
portant, and required some reflection before it was act-
ed upon. He therefore moved to lay it on the table.
This motion also was lost.
Mr.. TAYLOR, of New York, then rose, and observed,
that the value of such a measure as that proposed in the
resolution, was considerably diminished by the lateness
of the period at which it was brought forward. Could
it have gone into effect when the soldiers' warrants were
first issued, it would have been of great utility—but at
this time, only a small proportion of the military lands
was in the ha'ids of the original gruntees, Neverthe-
less, if the discrimination which it was the object of this
resolution to make, could be accomplished, in relation
to the small portion that yet remained,' it should by all
means be done. As to that portion of the military lands
which had passed into the hands of other parlies than
the soldiers or their heirs, he saw no reason why they
should be exempted from taxation more than other lands.
Nor did be perceive why the lands of non-residents
should in this respect be distinguished from those of re-
sident owners. The Territorial Governments must be
supported in some way, and real estate was the chief
resource to which resort must be had for that purpose.
The patents, he believed, were now, for the most part,
old; but when they were first issued, the lands were for
five years omitted to be taxed. At the time the State
Constitution was granted to Illinois, the Legislature was
restrained from taxing the bounty lands for three years,
after the organization of her Government. Mr. T. ob-
served, that his own wish had been to extend the re-
striction to five years, and he had introduced a motion to
that effect in committee of the whole; but when the bill
for framing that constitution came into the House, the
proposition was rejected, and it was on his motion that
it had been fixed at three years, and passed in that form.
A similar restriction was imposed when Missouri was ad-
mitted, and, from all he had learned, he believed the
prohibition had had a beneficial effect. Arkansas was
now, he believed, the only territory in which bounty
lands were to be found, and he presumed it was to that
territory that the remarks of the gentleman from Ken-
tucky (Mr. Wickliffe) had reference. He knew that in
many cases large and valuable tracts of land had been
sold to pay a comparatively small amount of tax; and
though he had but a faint hope, that, at this time, much
could be effected in a way of remedy, he had no objec-
tions to the inquiry proposed.
Mr. UOOIC coincided in opinion with the member
from New York. It had been his lot to reside, for a large
part of his life, under a territorial government," and he
could with truth declare, that that form of government
was more expensive than a state government. The ter-
ritory of Arkansas had been organized only three years,
and it had officers to support, and public expenses to en-
dure, which full with a heavy weight upon its sparse and
scanty population. But little of the public lands in that
territory had yet been sold, and the most of it was held
by speculators. If the measure proposed by the resolu-
tion went into effect, it ought to be restricted to those
lands, the patents for which had not been issued, and
which were not yet subject to taxation, and should not
extend to those which had passed into other hands than
the grantees. He considered it as unfair to exempt the
lands of non-residents, more than of those who resided
within the territory. To a bill as broad as the resolution
he should object, and, if introduced, he should certainly
oppose it: and, with a view to having the terms of the
resolution narrowed, he moved to lay it on the table.
Mr. WICKLIFFE observed, in reply, that he did not
mean by the measure he proposed, to do any thing to
destroy the rights of the territorial government, or pre-
vent their support—his sole object was to furnish, to the
soldiers who still held their lands, an inducement which
might operate to prevent their parting with them to spe-
culators. He was not able to state how many warrants re-
mained unsold, or how many were not yet issued. But
one thing he did know, that the soldiers whom it had
been the intention of Congress to reward, were in gen-
eral ignorant of the condition of the land they held ; and
if the territorial government were suffered at will to lay
taxes on the lands, the poor soldiers would be compell-
ed by necessity to sell them, as so many others had al-
ready done, for any thing speculators chose to allow
them. As to the direction the resolution might take, he
felt indifferent—he cired not to which of the commit-
tees it went—his sole object was, that an inquiry should
The question was then put on agreeing to the resolu-
lion, and decided in the affirmative.
So the resolution was adopted.
On motion of Mr. TRACY, the House went into com-
mittee of the whole on the bill "further to amend the
act authorizing the payment for property lost, captured,
or destroyed, by the enemy, while in the military service
of the United States, and for other purposes."
Mr. P. I'. B AR150UR said that his design in rising was
not to oppose the details of the bill now before the com-
mittee, but to offer a proposition superseding them al-
together. He wished to test the sense of this House on
the principle of the bill, and with this view he moved to
strike out the enacting clause. It was not his intention
to detain the committee bv any prolonged discussion ;
he wished to direct them at once to the principle of
the measure, and, in doing so, he should submit to their
consideration some general principles of national law,
and a few facts which he thought had a bearing on the
question before them.
It had been his fortune to be a member of this House
when the subject of these claims was first brought be-
fore Congress, and he had at that time borne some
small share in discussing it. He now begged leave to
recall some of the considerations he had at that time
urged, and in doing so he should be very brief. The
great question to be settled is this—What is the nature
and character, and what is the extent, of the obligation
which a whole community owes to its individual mem-
bers for losses sustained during a state of warfare from
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Gales, Joseph, 1761-1841. Register of Debates in Congress, Comprising the Leading Debates and Incidents of the Second Session of the Eighteenth Congress, book, 1825; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc30752/m1/39/: accessed March 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.